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What happens to the abolition of Section 21 now?

Section 21 Housing Act 1988
What impact will abolishing section 21 have on landlords and renters?

Abolishing Section 21 was a manifesto commitment for the Conservative Party in the 2019 general election. Although the Renters Reform Bill never reached the statute book, the question of abolishing Section 21 has not gone away.

In fact, all the main political parties have committed in their 2024 election manifestos to abolish Section 21, with the exception of Reform UK.

Whilst it’s no surprise that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens wish to abolish Section 21, but the Conservatives have also reiterated their commitment to abolishing Section 21. However, the Conservative’s commitment tis subject to delivering “the court reforms necessary to fully abolish Section 21 and strengthen other grounds for landlords to evict private tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour”.

In this blog post, I explain what the abolition of Section 21 entails, the likely short-term and long-term consequences, summarise what was in the Renters Reform Bill, and touch upon the future.

Last updated: 14 June 2024

>> Related Post: Analysis of the political parties’ manifesto commitments for landlords

>> Show Notes: Good Landlording – What the manifestos say about rental reform

What is a Section 21 no fault eviction notice?

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 gives landlords the right to recover possession of their rental property by serving a minimum of two months’ notice in writing to the tenant that they wish to bring the tenancy to an end. The landlord cannot do this during a fixed term tenancy unless there is a break clause, and serving a s21 notice is subject to certain conditions. The landlord does this by using a standard form from the GOV website called Form 6A.

It’s referred to as a “no fault” eviction as landlords don’t need to give a reason why they wish the tenants to leave.

>> Related Post: How to serve a valid Section 21 notice using Form 6A

Why is there such a heated debate about abolishing Section 21?

Removing a landlord’s flexibility to terminate tenancy agreements with two months’ notice, without needing to give a reason (it doesn’t mean there isn’t one), promises to cause a profound upheaval in the private rented sector.

Even with the expanded Grounds for Possession under Section 8, and the promised improvements to the county court system, many landlords are concerned they may be stuck with bad tenants.

On the other hand, the abolition of Section 21 will give renters more security, and remove the sword of Damocles that they may receive a Section 21 notice at any time outside of a fixed term. Some renters feel unable to report disrepair as they are worried the landlord will serve a Section 21 notice.

When will Section 21 no fault evictions be abolished?

The government abandoned the Renters Reform Bill after calling a snap general election, which means that Section 21 will not now be abolished any time soon.

Instead, it will be in the hands of whichever party wins the general election to decide whether to bring forward new legislation to repeal Section 21 Housing Act 1988. And then it will need to get through both houses of parliament in order to receive Royal Assent and then come into force.

As all bar Reform have a commitment to abolish Section 21 in their election manifestos, it is likely that Section 21 will be abolished within the next year or so.

>> Related Post: Analysis of the political parties’ policies for landlords

Can landlords still serve a Section 21 notice?

Yes. As the law stands, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is still valid. This means that landlords can serve a Section 21 notice, provided they have complied with the various requirements for the notice to be valid.

Landlords will be able to serve Section 21 notices until the law is changed to prevent this. As the Renters Reform Bill has been dropped, a new government would have to start again, and take a new piece of legislation through parliament to scrap Section 21 no fault evictions.

Will Labour scrap Section 21 no fault evictions?

Yes. The Labour election manifesto states “We will immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions”. Of course, they would need primary legislation to do this, which means it won’t be abolished the day after the election, but this wording makes clear that it is a priority.

Angela Rayner has previously promised to abolish no fault evictions, “no ifs, no buts”, on many occasions, including at a speech on housing on 21 May 2024.

When is the earliest Labour could abolish Section 21 no fault evictions?

As the Renters Reform Bill was dropped in the run up to the election, the Labour Party would need to start again, with primary legislation. That means drafting a new Bill and taking it through both houses of parliament. It’s possible it could be done by the end of 2024.

It is also likely that any Section 21 notices served before any new legislation becomes law will still be valid. There is also usually a transitional arrangement for existing tenancies when new laws are introduced.

What did the Renters Reform Bill say about the abolition of Section 21?

The Renters Reform Bill contained wording to abolish assured shorthold tenancies, and the ability of landlords to use Section 21 to serve notice to terminate a tenancy without giving a reason.

Without Section 21, landlords would have needed to use the existing Section 8 framework to evict tenants if Section 21 had been abolished. To address this, the Renters Reform Bill increased the number of Grounds for Possession that would have been available to landlords. Landlords would have been able to evict tenants if they wish to sell their property, but would have needed to use Section 8 instead of Section 21.

Here is a detailed but practical blog post on how the new consolidated Section 8 would have worked.

This is a brief overview of the key new Grounds for Possession:

New Mandatory Ground: Sale of property (Ground 1A)

  • A landlord would only be able to use this ground if the tenancy had lasted more than 6 months.
  • Landlord must have intended to sell the property.
  • The landlord must not have made the property available for short term lets (eg Airbnb) or marketed the property for short term lets for 3 months after relying on Ground 1A (and Ground 1, which is where the landlord or their family want to move in).

Revised Mandatory Ground: Landlord or close family member moving in (Ground 1)

  • Landlords would have been able to serve two months’ notice to sell or move close family members into the property. However, they wouldn’t have been able to do this in the first six months of a tenancy.
  • The landlord would have needed to have intended it to be their (or their family member’s) only or principal home. The landlord’s family included their spouse/partner, and their respective parents, grandparents, siblings, and grandchildren. It doesn’t include nieces, nephews etc.

New Mandatory Ground: Repeated serious arrears (Ground 8A)

  • A landlord would have been able to serve a Section 8 notice if the tenant had been in at least two months’ rent arrears three times for at least one day within the previous three years. It would have still applied if the renters were no longer in arrears at the hearing.
  • The draft specifically excluded arrears due to delays from the payment of Universal Credit.
  • Landlords wouldn’t have been able to use this new ground to evict renters if the arrears stayed under two months’ rent.

New Ground for Possession: Student lets (Ground 4A)

There was a new mandatory ground for possession for student lets.

Revised Discretionary Ground: Anti-social Behaviour (Ground 14)

  • The Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan published by the government on 27 March 2023 gave cause for optimism that Ground 14 will be amended to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants for behaviour that falls short of criminal anti-social behaviour.
  • In the end, the new wording was a damp squib. The proposal was to change the wording from guilty of “behaviour causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance” to “capable of causing“.
  • I’m not sure there was much a significant difference between the two, even if the guidance claimed this would have made ASB easier to demonstrate. In any event, it would have been a discretionary ground, so a judge would have needed to decide whether it was reasonable to evict the tenant because of their behaviour.
  • It would have also been a lot costlier going to court, instead of the easy s21.
  • Click here for my blog post which explains in detail how landlords would have be able to evict tenants with anti-social behaviour using the revised Grounds 7A and 14.

Landlords would also have been able to use the existing Section 8 Grounds for Possession.

For tables showing what the Section 8 Grounds for Possession would have looked like had the Renters Reform Bill comes into force, click here: Making sense of the Section 8 Grounds for Possession in the Renters Reform Bill.

>> Related Post: The Section 8 Grounds for Possession in the Renters Reform Bill

What are the likely short-term consequences of abolishing s21?

If a new government scraps Section 21, these are the likely short-term consequences:

1. Sell up or adapt?

  • An increase in landlords selling is likely to lead to more evictions in the short term. Why? Landlords usually receive more money if they sell with vacant possession. It’s also easier to sell without renters, for instance, arranging viewings and redecorating the property for sale.
  • It will become more difficult to sell a rental property after the abolition of s21. Consequently, the approaching end of s21 is likely to concentrate the minds of any wavering landlords. This could have the opposite effect of the end of a temporary reduction in stamp duty, which leads to a surge of property purchases.
  • If landlords do stay, they’ll need to adapt to the Brave New World of landlording.

>> Related Post: How to sell a buy to let

2. Manage “problem renters” before s21 comes into effect

  • Landlords often use s21 to evict “problem” renters. They might be regularly late with rent, but not two months behind. Or their behaviour may fall short of “serious” anti-social behaviour. For instance, they might not be looking after the property well, or they’re in breach of the tenancy agreement. The landlords might be able to use Section 8 grounds, but choose s21 because it’s quicker and easier.
  • However, s21 has allowed landlords to give renters the benefit of the doubt, knowing they can terminate if it doesn’t work out.
  • That said, as it would become more difficult to evict tenants, landlords are likely to try to lower risk in the interim period, by being less willing to give renters the benefit of the doubt.
  • This may lead to an increase in evictions as landlords will want to reduce risk before the rules change.

>> Related Post: How to serve a valid Section 21 notice

Likely long-term consequences of abolishing Section 21

Although abolishing Section 21 would give renters more security, it would change how landlords select renters. Landlords would be likely to become more risk adverse when choosing tenants as they know it would be costly and time-consuming to rely on Section 8 to evict problematic tenants.

Unless there is more social housing, a combination of increased prudence by landlords and more landlords selling up would exacerbate further the shortage of private rental properties.

Final thoughts

The Renters’ Reform Bill would have profoundly changed the relationship between landlord and renter in England. By and large, giving renters more security is good for wider society, and it’s something I personally support.

However, whilst the reforms are unlikely to make a difference in practice where the relationship is already positive, and the landlord gets a fair return for their investment, ending s21 would make all landlords more cautious when choosing renters. Particularly if the court system is not reformed to make it fit for handling the increased volume Section 8 orders for possession.

Let’s see what the next government decides about abolishing Section 21.

Last updated: 14 June 2024

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What impact will abolishing section 21 have on landlords and renters?

17 thoughts on “What happens to the abolition of Section 21 now?”

  1. Hi Suzanne, thank you for your interesting information which I find very helpful in deciding whether to continue renting a property or selling after encountering three costly tenants over the last 4 years ( maybe I’m not very good at vetting or choosing).
    I do have other properties which cause me no problems however one is very hard work.
    I look forward to receiving further information from you in the future while I decide the future for this particular property.

  2. You state: “By and large, giving renters more security is good for wider society, and it’s something I personally support.” Renters sign a legal contract that states how long the rental is for. At the end of the contract the rental ends. So how is it right that the legal contract can be simply over ridden by Government which makes a mockery of the legal contract in the first place. Is it right that a property owner who, for example, opts to rent out a property whilst s/he is temporarily away (maybe working abroad for a year) and returns at the end of the contracted rental period only to find they are unable to gain possession. That they may have to take legal proceedings and suffer a protected time before gaining possession which would result in significant extra costs not too mention legal fees.

    1. Under the Renters Reform Bill, the landlord would be able to gain possession in your example by using the revised Mandatory Ground 1 of Section 8. For this new regime to be fair to landlords, the court system needs to be streamlined and modernised so it’s quick, easy and inexpensive to gain possession for Mandatory Grounds like this. We’ve been promised this by Michael Gove. Let’s hope he delivers.

      1. There was a reason AST’s were created by Maggie. With strict protection for tenants there was no real rental market. Ensuring Landlords can get possession cheaply and easily is fundamental to a thriving rental arket for both landlords and tenants. The screw is gradually being tightened on landlords the assumption being landlords are bad and tenants are good. Selective licensing, ridiculous changes to what constitues and HMO, the loss of mortgate interest against income the possibility of not being able to evict and paying the tenant 3 times the deposit. All bad. Tenants have sufficient security of tenure, the contract is the contract. They can still string a landlors along for several months even with S21, making up stories of problems, informing the local authority of lack of repairs or maintenance. The lwas are being changed the wrong way

      2. The abolishment of section 21 will drive some landlords to take it upon themselves to evict tenants, either themselves or by other means! It’s wrong but people are going to become exasperated by the external waiting and cost!

        1. Well, if they did that, they’d be breaking the law. The vast majority of tenants move out of their own volition anyway, either their notice to quit or when they receive a s21 notice, rather than waiting for the landlord to enforce the s21 notice in the courts and obtain an order for possession.

          So I don’t see the end of section 21 as a catastrophe for landlords. I’ve only used it once, and that was when I was selling up. I’ll be able to do that under the new Mandatory Ground 1A under Section 8.

  3. There was an alarmingly jarring comment in the press at the weekend about the Autumn Statement, saying that “the fiscal headroom spent…last week was calculated on the assumption that departments such as Justice would be put into austerity-style straitjackets after the election” (Sunday Times, 26 Nov).
    That’s so inconsistent with any idea that we might see Courts improvements to allow the RRB plans to come to fruition. Any landlord who has had to endure the Court system and the interminable waits for outcomes over the years could at least think “I may not welcome the end of Section 21 but if its death is inevitable then at least a 21st Century repossession process might offer hope”. That just seems like wishful thinking if The Times is right.
    Rhetoric is going to collide with reality. If the RRB isn’t through readings by the time of the election, might Labour ignore the Court-improvement delay and just dump Sec 21 anyway?

  4. We are currently selling our properties as rapidly as we can. Just to get our money out and be finished with it. The abolition of section 21 will destroy the way renting can work because it unbalances the fundamental and vital relationships between owner, tenant and the law. We have prided ourselves on being as good as we can be to tenants, reacting rapidly to issues, always maintaining and doing safety checks and reacting professionally to any areas of concern. Despite this in the last 18 months we have lost thousands of pounds from tenants who just simply stop paying because they know it takes ages to go to court, and when it does, the judge can be easily persuaded to see things in their favour. We have lost £25,000 this year on legal fees unpaid rent alone. This rental will never be recovered because the courts will not take the landlord’s position seriously. And tenants if they want to, can really relax and avoid their obligations. With the considerable litany of controls and pressures placed upon landlords over the last few years, the thought of section 21 disappearing is like watching a Jack boot stamping on the fingers of someone hanging onto a cliff face. I feel that becoming a landlord after the abolition of section 21 is ill advised. When Sect21 goes it will become an absolutely pointless line of business – overnight. When coupled to a court system (by default strongly biased in favour of the tenant), prospects for proper legal justice are extremely diminished. When you also factor in the mentality of Angela Rayner and the soon incoming Labour Party then the future for private landlords has to be absolutely dire beyond belief.

  5. Pete: Great post, 100% agree. Your views are shared probably by the great majority of private landlords. What is still not recognised is that the RRB is every bit as damaging for tenants as it is for landlords. It’s a complete political ‘mince’.

    I have concluded, like so many others, that it’s time to leave. To delay risks a creeping move toward ‘an unspoken form of sequestration’, but sequestration nonetheless, especially with a Labour gov. It boils down to leave or face the prospect of loosing control of your hard won property asset. Some may say, it feels like communism!

  6. Great article, validates a lot.

    Many people are unaware that they even have rights. If they knew, a different outcome is questionable…
    People may hear about concepts like ‘equality’ and ‘human rights’, Reasonable adjustments, but have never witnessed these rights working to benefit anyone.

    While rights are fundamentally important and people have sacrificed to establish them, how many have truly seen rights make a tangible difference? It’s a catch-22 – rights will not be effective unless we advocate for their enforcement, yet we lack motivation to advocate if we never see rights enforced.

    In 2 years I have not been able to get any cooperation in regards to my rights as a tenant with autism. My Landlord deposited money into my account without my knowledge an consent, and has filed a section 21 (which was invalid, dates of signing changed and I have not signed it deposit changed) and they served repossession on me and a hearing took place I that I did not know or have any idea about, and now await bailiffs unable to get anyone to listen.

    Sadly, I am also a Masters Law student and know that I am being abused by the process, but until I am ” a real qualified lawyer” Those in the position of trust who I gave my trust have will have there way with me, and unbelievably to my totally understanding and awareness.

    Ben Mak 2024

    1. As a lawyer I saw time and time again how the rights against discrimination (sex, race, disability, part-time working etc) have benefited employees, myself included. I’m sorry your landlord served a s21 notice, but your landlord doesn’t need your consent to return the deposit. I hope you find somewhere new to live.

  7. Rayne Stafford

    I bought a btl with the internet of eventually paying it off and moving in. Am I to assume that this may not happen if my tenants won’t move out?

  8. Richard Lamprey

    Suzanne thanks for your useful blog. Will the new bill abolish Assured Shorthold Tenancies? When is this likely to be passed? I am a landlord, about to re-sign an AST with existing tenants (their current tenancy AST ending early June 2024). Will I find that this AST has no legal standing once the new bill is passed ie the tenants can then remain beyond the expiry date and can only be removed under Section 21? Thanks.

    1. Good question. After the implementation date (probably at least 6 months after Royal Assent), landlords will no longer be able to grant assured shorthold tenancies, and will only be able to grant assured tenancies, which will roll on a monthly basis as periodic tenancies, without the benefit of s21.

      For existing ASTs, there will be a transition period and they will continue in force until a second implementation date when any of the clauses outlawed by the Renters Reform Act (as it will then be) will cease to be enforceable. We don’t yet know if ASTs will convert into ATs automatically, with the unenforceable clauses disregarded, or whether landlords will need to send new agreements to their tenants.

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